Illinois Representative Mike Unes, R-East Peoria, has his first challenger in the 2018 race for his Illinois House 91st District seat.

Carolyn “Cari” Blodgett, of Canton, will announce her candidacy as a Democrat at 6 p.m. Thursday at the American Grille in Canton.

Blodgett is a lifetime resident of Canton. She is a member of the Fulton County Board and works for the Lewistown Department of Human Services as a caseworker where she serves as an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union steward.

Among the issues Blodgett is concerned with is the state budget, school funding, good paying jobs, higher education and affordable health care. She said the “time is right” for her to run for the office.

Lawmakers were in session for 14 straight days. The Senate on Tuesday sent a $36 billion spending plan to Gov. Bruce Rauner funded with a $5 billion income tax increase. Rauner rapidly vetoed it, only to have the Democratic-controlled Senate just as swiftly override the veto. The House will vote on the veto Thursday.

“I believe right now we desperately need some changes in Springfield,” said Blodgett. “Since the governor was elected things haven’t been getting done.

“I believe we need some people who are just common people — people who have to pay bills, people who have student loans, people who understand what it is to have to live on a budget in Springfield to help work on things. And that’s definitely where I fall.”

The most recent budget proposal’s income tax increase is necessary, said Blodgett.

“I think it will be a strain, but I think that’s one of the measures that has to happen in order for us to make progress on the mess we now have with the budget,” said Blodgett. “Hopefully it will happen in conjunction with other things so we can see cuts in other places and there will be changes happening.

“I think it’s part of what has to happen — it’s part of the big picture.”

Blodgett said the state needs to invest more in education. She said some of that money should come from the increase in taxes.

“But I think cutting at the top, cutting at the administrative levels from the top down, would benefit the actual people teaching,” she said. “I know we have school districts who have more administrators now than they did when their population was much larger, and we don’t need those expenses.”

Pensions have been a bone of contention in budget negotiations. Blodgett does not believe pensions should be changed or cut.

“I don’t think that’s the answer, but I do think at some point we need to adjust how the pension system is handled,” she said. “We have lost money over the years because everybody has taken out of it to use money for other things. We’ve also lost money in poor investments and I think that needs to be changed.”

Blodgett hopes to secure the support of AFSCME in her bid for office.

Blodgett said she believes many District 91 residents “don’t trust the people in Springfield. They don’t trust them and they don’t think the people in Springfield understand what we are going through living in the districts. It’s not just our district.” She said the unemployment rate is down, but people are underemployed.

“We have people who have degrees and certificates and can’t find work in those areas in this area,” said Blodgett. “They would have to uproot their families and move to a different part of the state or somewhere different altogether and they can’t do that. People can’t afford to pick up and leave here, so we need to have more jobs here in the district for our people. We have to figure out how to bring some of those jobs back here. I think that’s frustrating people right now.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin